Former Illinois basketball forward Coleman Hawkins makes wise financial decision

It was a stunning move on Wednesday night, as Coleman Hawkins announced he was coming back to college
Nebraska v Illinois
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It was a stunning turn of events on Wednesday night, as a former Illinois basketball player is coming back to the college game.

The Illini roster is rounding into shape nicely. Illinois only had two holdovers from the 2023-24 campaign. Joining those two players are four incoming freshmen and five transfer portal additions.

If you are counting at home, that makes for 11 scholarships. With two scholarships to play with, it wouldn’t shock me to see Brad Underwood and the Illinois coaching staff go out and get another transfer portal player.

One transfer portal player the Illini won’t be able to bring in is Coleman Hawkins. Back on April 30, Hawkins decided to enter the NBA Draft and also the transfer portal. In the post, he mentioned that his full intentions were to stay in the NBA Draft process. He also quote retweeted his post and said, “Relax, lol.” That post has now been deleted.

Fast forward exactly a month later, and Hawkins has decided to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft. Normally, this would be music to Illinois fan’s ears, but not in this case. According to Shams Charania, NBA insider for The Athletic, Hawkins is withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft process and will transfer to a new program.

This is the worst-case scenario for the Illinois basketball program on the surface. Not only is Hawkins not going to the NBA, but he isn’t coming back to Champaign. He is heading to another program, and there is a real chance the Illini will have to face him next season.

At this point, I almost feel like this is a mutual decision between Illinois basketball and transfer portal forward Coleman Hawkins

When I saw the news break on Wednesday night, I am not going to lie, I was crushed at first. Why would Hawkins do this to the Orange and Blue? A team that helped develop and build this kid’s game to where he is getting serious looks from the NBA.

Time started to pass by, and honestly, at this point in the process, I feel like this is best for both parties. Hawkins wants to get paid, and the best way to do that is to come back to college and have teams vie for his services.

Hawkins will make more in college this season than he would in the NBA. He was projected, at best, in the 50s in the 2024 NBA Draft. The No. 49 player picked in the 2023 NBA Draft was Emoni Bates. He made $559,782 during the 2023-24 season.

It is just speculation, but I would venture to say that coming back to college probably wasn’t a development thing for Hawkins. Do you really think you are going to improve as an NBA player playing college basketball? He would develop better playing in the G-League more than in the college game. So, in my eyes, this was obviously a financial move.

On the Illinois side of things, this program has been moving on without him for about a month now. Again, just speculation, but Underwood and Hawkins probably had a talk when he declared for the NBA Draft. I imagine these two already knew what was going on, and the fans were left in the dark.

Illinois has added a plethora of frontcourt talent. Morez Johnson Jr. is a top-30 recruit in the class of 2024, so he is starting. Carey Booth and Ben Humrichous are both four-star transfer portal players, so there is a ton of playing time there and one is at least going to start. You don’t go out and get this type of talent without knowing Hawkins is not coming back to Illinois.

So, at the end of the day, it is going to be weird to see Hawkins playing for another team. He stuck with the Orange and Blue for four years. It was a great four years as well. Thank you for everything, Hawk, and good luck in the future. If we do play you in 2024-25, as fans should, let the boos rain down on you.

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